What Does the Law Say?

  • Domestic Abuse and the Law

    Domestic abuse is defined as any incident(s) of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour,  violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.

    (March 2013)

  • It is important to realise that domestic abuse is illegal.

    The Police take it very seriously and have support mechanisms in place to deal with it.

    Offences include:

    • assault,
    • public order offences,
    • harassment,
    • criminal damage.
  • An assault is an intentional act which causes a person to apprehend immediate unlawful force or personal violence. 

    Words or gestures or threats alone may constitute an assault.

    If violence is threatened then there must be the ability to carry out the threat at the time.

    An assault does not have to involve force and can vary in severity.

    Common assault and battery are specific offences (Criminal Justice Act 1988) e.g. spitting, emotional abuse.

    Assault occasioning bodily harm (Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861) e.g. black eyes, minor bruising, scraps.

    Grievous bodily harm (Section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861) e.g. broken bones.

  • Section 1 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1977 says that a person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another.

  • Stalking

    A new stalking law introduced - from November 2012.

    1. Stalking where those convicted of stalking by harassing, following or spying on people face up to six months in prison.
    2. Those guilty of stalking with the threat of violence face up to five years in jail.



  • Cyberstalking is the offence of sending malicious messages through the Internet. This can be dealt with through civil and criminal law. The Police have successfully used the Protection from Harassment Act in order to prosecute those sending offensive communications through the Internet. Such messages are also an offence under the Malicious Communications Act.

    The offence is punishable with up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine.

  • Public order offences

    The Public Order Act 1986 covers various offences which include:

    It is an offence to use threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause a person to believe that unlawful violence will be used against him/her or another by the defendant.

  • What about the children?

    In about half of all domestic violence situations, the children also suffer harm and are abused themselves. Children living in households where domestic violence is occurring are now identified as “at risk” under the Adoption and Children Act 2002; from 31 January 2005, Section 120 of this act extended the legal definition of harming children to include harm suffered by seeing or hearing ill treatment of others. 

  • Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults

    The Police have a role to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse and to promote their welfare.

    Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 states that the Police have emergency powers to enter premises and make sure they can provide immediate protection for children believed to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.

    The child abuse investigation unit (CAIU) also have a critical role to play in child safeguarding.

  • Working together to protect children

    • Officers work with a number of partners in protecting children, for example, community safety partnerships, drug action teams, the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) and Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).

    • Police forces operate a child sex offender disclosure scheme, which allows anyone to ask the Police for checks to be made on a named individual who has contact with children. 

    • If an individual is found to have convictions for sexual offences against children, a risk-based disclosure will be made to the person who is best placed to protect the child.

    • The membership of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) is set out in the Children Act 2004, and includes local authorities, the Police and others. The aim of these boards is to co-ordinate member agencies in protecting and promoting the welfare of children.

  • Forced marriage

    Forcing someone to marry became a criminal offence in England and Wales on 14 June 2014.

    The civil protection of a Forced Marriage Protection Order will continue alongside the new criminal law.